Periodontal disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults. The word “periodontal” means around the tooth, and this disease strikes the gums and may also affect the ligaments and bones that surround your teeth. What it is is basically an infection and inflammation of the gums that begins with bacterial growth in your mouth and ends with the loss of tooth or worse.

Because periodontal disease is usually painless, you may not know you have it until it’s in the severe stage. It’s absolutely important that you catch it as early as possible.

What Causes Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is caused by the proliferation of bacteria in the mouth. If bacteria are allowed to stay in the mouth for a long time, these form a film called plaque, which then hardens into calculus, commonly known as tartar, when not removed. Calculus build-up will affect your gums and leads to gum disease. By this point, only dental instruments can remove it effectively.

Risk Factors

There are several factors that increase your risk of developing gum disease. At the top of the list is poor oral hygiene. Simply brushing and flossing regularly can keep bacteria from building up and forming into plaque. 

Other factors that increase your risk for gum disease include:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Stress
  • Age (Periodontitis is most common in people over the age of 35)
  • Genetics
  • Poor nutrition
  • Pregnancy or female hormonal changes
  • Crooked teeth (hard to keep clean)
  • Certain medical conditions or diseases
  • Certain medications, like steroids or anti-epilepsy drugs
  • Underlying immuno-deficiencies
  • Fillings that have become defective

Signs of Periodontal Disease

While symptoms of gum disease vary, there are plenty of warning signals you should take note of. If you recognize any of these signs below, make an appointment with your dentist for an evaluation.

  • Gums that are swollen, tender, or bleed easily
  • Gums that are bright red or purplish
  • Gums that are receding or pulling away from the tooth
  • Permanent teeth that feel loose or are separating
  • A bad taste in the mouth or bad breath
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Painful chewing
  • Pus 

Stages of Periodontal Disease

The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. This is the mild form of gum disease, and it’s characterized by redness, swelling, and irritation in the gums. You may also see gums receding. At this stage, it’s still pretty much reversible through professional dental cleaning and practicing good oral hygiene.

If left untreated, gingivitis will progress to periodontitis. This is a more destructive form of the disease which leads to bone damage and tooth loss. The bacteria can also enter your bloodstream through the gum tissue and affect other parts of your body.

Periodontal Disease Treatments

As mentioned above, when gum disease is in the gingivitis stage, you can send it packing with regular visits to your dentist and proper oral hygiene at home. Once it becomes more serious, however, your dental professional will recommend varying procedures depending on the severity of the problem.

For non-advanced periodontitis, less invasive procedures may be recommended, like:

  • Scaling – This procedure removes the bacteria and tartar from the tooth surfaces and beneath the gums.
  • Root planing – This smooths the root surfaces, removes the build up of calculus and bacteria, and removes byproducts from bacteria that cause inflammation and delay healing.
  • Medication – Typically, antibiotics are prescribed to control infection. 

For more advanced periodontitis, surgery may be required. 

Preventing Gum Disease

Prevention is better than cure, and it is certainly easier and cheaper. Keeping your teeth and gums healthy begins with brushing your teeth twice a day, or after every meal, for at least two minutes. Flossing also works great at removing food, bacteria, and plaque that are trapped around your teeth and gums.

Regular dental cleaning every three to six months will also go a long way to keeping your mouth healthy. And if you tick off any of the boxes in the list of risk factors listed above, you may need to see your dental professional more often. 

Early intervention is important.

Don’t let gum disease ruin your smile. At the first sign of gum disease, make an appointment at your local dental practice right away. Early intervention won’t only save your teeth, but it will also save you from a lot of headaches (and costs!) in the long run. 

If you have any questions about periodontal disease or would like to book an appointment, contact us at 541-708-6288.

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